Snag learners early if you want them to be engaged in your online course. And by "early," I mean before your course even launches. Start with a welcome letter, and you'll find it much easier to make a lasting connection with students.
Welcome letters help you set expectations and highlight anything important when people are most attentive. Use your welcome letter to give students a quick preview of the course, give them contact information, state prerequisites, and give them major deadlines they can copy into their calendars.
Paper or e-mail is fine, although e-mail is cheaper. Just make sure to send it a week or two before launch.
Here are a few welcome letters from other organizations that can help you draft your e-learning missive:
Welcome to Linn-Benton Community College eLearning Courses
– Clearly spells out expectations
Cascadia Online Classes Welcome Letter
– Simple, but gives helpful information
Gloucester County College eLearning Welcome Letters
– A host of PDF welcome letters written by instructors
Why Send a Welcome Letter?
– Spells out the anatomy of a welcome letter, from University of Alaska at Fairbanks